Projecting the Consequences If NFL Sticks with Replacement Refs into the Season

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 10: Replacement referee Jerry Hughes catches a football as the New York Giants play against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a pre-season football game August 10, 2011 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The battle between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association has yet to be resolved, and now it looks like it could last into the regular season, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.

This situation could be a disaster for the league, as every questionable decision made by replacement referees will almost certainly be dissected and over-analyzed. 

As Bryan Burnwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out on Friday, the NFL is not the place to learn on the job. Most of the replacement officials have looked to be in over their heads so far, and the players have taken notice and have complained. 

The NFL is far faster than any other level of football, which means that officials have to be sharper and quicker. The league's rules are also often open to interpretation, and it takes years of seasoning for referees to hone in on exactly what to look for in each situation. 

The bottom line is that NFL players can't trust replacement referees to get calls right. It takes time to be good at that job. And if the players don't take the officials seriously and they question the refs, then the game will lack credibility. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office have to be aware of that. 

The same applies to fans and the game. If we can't trust those officiating the game, we can't trust the outcome of the game. 

Replacement referees could lower the NFL in the eyes of its fans and even the players on the field. The regular season isn't the preseason; people actually care what happens once the season starts.

By using replacement officials, the league office is rolling the dice and taking a huge gamble. The best thing for everyone involved would be to get the real officials back on the job.